Public Art Mural Graffiti Removal, Protection and Restoration
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Graffiti Removal From Famous Mural
Amazing Transformation for Public Art
Olympic Freeway Mural by Kent Twitchell
Jim Morphesis Monument under Temple St. Overpass in LA
Kent Twitchell painted the realistic mural "Jim Morphesis Monument" under the 101 freeway overpass of Grand Ave. in downtown Los Angeles. It is part of a two piece mural called "The 7th Street Altarpiece." And Altarpiece is part of the 1984 Olympics murals series that adorned our freeways with 11 murals by living masters. Since their placement on the freeways, however, vandalism graffiti has all but obliterated the fabulous, quality public works of art and has saddened millions of Los Angelinos and visitors.
There have been several attempts over the years to restore the mural in the picture above but efforts have always fallen short when it comes to maintaining them and keeping the graffiti off. There have been a number of reasons for this but it boils down to establishing a professional committed organization to follow through and work well with others… and the consistency to “stay on it.”
Enter the picture: The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA) driven by
Isabel Rojas-Williams, Executive Director and a partnership with art conservation firm, FACL, Inc. and Scott M. Haskins, President and Head Conservator. MCLA has targeted the saving, protection and maintaining of these 11 Olympic murals from 1984 as their highest priority right now. The problem that motivates MCLA? Caltrans. The highway maintenance department of the State of California, who has a mandate to paint out graffiti, has painted out 7 of the 11 murals much to the despair of artists, art lovers, and the general public which has commented energetically on blogs and websites every time a mural gets painted out.
Well, MCLA to the rescue who has been fantastic at raising awareness, making the political connections, fund raising and pulling together the professional organization to get the job done and follow through for the long term. Combine MCLA's resources, contacts and energy with FACL, Inc. and Scott M. Haskins and there has been great progress! The first mural on the list to benefit from the new partnerships and efforts: Kent Twitchell's "Jim Morphesis Monument"
This has been in the planning now for almost a year. The first meeting of the minds occurred in 2011 when FACL, Inc. and Scott M. Haskins met on the freeways with Caltrans last April: http://www.fineartconservationlab.com/projects/murals/mural-conservancy-of-los-angeles-meets-with-caltrans-to-inspect-downtown-la-freeway-murals/.
With the “adoption” of Jim Morphesis Monument and the raising of funds for its continued maintenance, graffiti removal tests were done to establish the cleaning and mural restoration processes.
Kent Twitchell in front of the heavily tagged Jim Morphesis Monument
Several graffiti removal processes were evaluated and a combination specifically customized to meet the needs of this particular mural were the right method to get the job done quickly (a necessary requirement while working on a freeway!) and be able to maintain it easily over time. Without getting into all the gory details of what we used and the techniques, the short version of the explanation is that we first cause the graffiti paint to swell and then we blast it off with a technique that doesn't hurt the original mural's paint. Here's what the graffiti paint looks like as we swell it (see photo).
Here's a great photo shot of the graffiti peeling off the original mural and allowing the gorgeous original colors to come screaming into the daylight once again.
Kent Twitchell was blown away by the successful results of these graffiti processes. Its an emotional experience to see a gorgeous work of art buried in filth and darkness and then see it liberated and be resurrected and reclaimed. I was moved also. The transformation was amazing!
So, where there was doubt, now there is hope and light and we see the way to get the job done on a massive scale for the other murals too. And, in fact, there is a doable plan for the extensive graffiti removal in this difficult location for FACL, Inc. and Scott M. Haskins to follow through on and do quality, efficient work.
The job then required doing the paperwork with Caltrans and Public Works, getting into motion the logistics (which are not a few!) and then scheduling the work. The stars aligned and the traffic gods complied, FACL, Inc. and Scott M. Haskins’ art conservation team completed the graffiti removal and art conservation/restoration work at the beginning of December 2011.
There has been a general gasp of amazement and excitement seeing the really terrific, world class, colorful mural of Jim Morphesis Monument by Kent Twitchell resurface again, clean and gorgeous.
Jim Morphesis Monument by Kent Twitchell after graffiti removal, retouching and protective varnish Photo by Gil Ortiz
Kent Twitchell said, I never dreamed or hoped that my mural could look so amazing after all its been through. You, Virginia and the others of your team have worked well with Caltrans to make this a wonderful project. Thank you and I look forward to working with you on other projects. !”
And Isabel Rojas-Williams, “I have nothing but gratefulness for you and the FACL team. What a wonderful job you all did, the mural looks stunning! I never hoped that the mural could look this amazing! You’ve done a fantastic job with the restoration/conservation work. Thank you for being such a leader in the process and being such a quality professional. I am looking forward to keep on working with all of you to have LA regain its title as The Mural Capital of the World!”
3 short entertaining videos have been made and can been seen free on the blog for the project (no opt-in required): 1. Testing, 2. Graffiti Removal, 3. Restoration. Want to see FACL, Inc. and Scott M. Haskins in action? Want to see the processes? Want to see and know the inside scoop on this super cool high profile job that millions of freeway travelers are seeing? Go to http://www.fineartconservationlab.com/jim-morphesis-monument-by-kent-twitchell/
This blog site (link above) is the first place the information will be posted for work on the other 1984 Olympic Freeway Murals in downtown LA when the work begins. Infact, there promises to be a lot of action in 2012. Stay tuned… we’ll keep
it interesting and entertaining!
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Media inquiries of all media welcome
Mural conservation and art conservation questions? Call Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438
The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles: Isabel Rojas-Williams 213 291 6900
Kent Twitchell, artist 310 709 2037
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